This is one of those books that made me wonder why the world was still turning as if nothing had happened when I finished it. I was so engrossed in the story that I wanted to talk about it with everyone. This comic book has everything: humour, adventure, excitement. It had me bite my nails because it was so scary and it also had me cheering with the protagonists when things went right. And also very important, the ending was very satisfying. However, this comic has over a thousand pages, consisting of nine volumes in total, and I knew it would be hard to convince anyone to read it and read it quickly as well because I am not patient. Let me use this review to convince you to read this amazing epic adventure comic. I’ll be reviewing the comic series as a whole which consists of nine volumes. The target audience for this book is children around twelve years old.
This story fits within the fantasy genre: it is set in a world different from ours and besides humans, other creatures are living in this world. There are the creatures called ‘Bones’, which are the white ones in the picture, dragons, rat creatures and locusts. The story starts when three Bone cousins, the protagonist Fone Bone, careless Smiley Bone and shady businessman Phoncible Bone, are chased out of Boneville because of one of Phoncibles schemes has gone wrong. Eventually, they end up in a valley which looks very idyllic and peaceful. In the valley, the cousins look for someone who can show them the way back to Boneville. Before they can leave, however, winter sets in with a big thud and they are stuck. In the picture, you see how suddenly winter set in, one example of the slapstick humour. Luckily, they meet Thorn and her grandmother Rose in the forest and they are allowed to stay until the end of winter. Life in the valley is peaceful at first, full of chores and hard work and watching grandmother Rose compete with cows in a running match. However, soon it becomes clear that things are not as peaceful as they seem. After the first two volumes, the story takes a darker turn and the adventure takes its full shape.
One day, Fone Bone meets the Red Dragon in the forest who tells him of the threat of the Lord of the Locusts. The Lord of the locust is the leader of a plague of locusts out for the destruction of the lives of the people in the valley. The people of the valley have been at war with the Lord of the Locust before. At that time the people in the valley were united as a kingdom and dragons lived among them. During the war, their king and queen were killed and the last descendant, a baby girl, disappeared together with the dragons. The people of the valley narrowly won the war with the locusts at that time. Now, the threat is bigger because there is no king or queen anymore to reunite the people of the valley. Throughout the first few volumes, the only thing the Bone cousins want is to return to their own town. However, slowly they get dragged into the war and before long they find themselves fighting the locust threat along with the people from the valley.
As I said before, this book is a mix of humour with a chilling adventure. This creates a good balance where the book never becomes completely dark, which makes the scary scenes easier to take. I think that’s a good thing in a book aimed at children. When the story gets too scary, there will be a joke to break the tension. One recurring joke is the rat creatures. They are dangerous because they constantly chase all the characters to eat them. However, whenever they manage to catch someone they fail to eat them because the creatures cannot agree on how to prepare their catch. One of the rat creatures dreams of trying out a quiche. However, the other creature doesn’t want that because it is not evil enough for a rat creature. Every time they catch someone they discuss how to prepare their meal at such length that their catch easily escapes. The scary parts are the choices the characters have to make and how they deal with the consequences of their decisions. When they make a bad decision other people suffer because of it and their friends get into danger. This made the story realistic because in every war tough decisions have to be made and there are consequences of those decision to deal with. Those consequences forced the characters to grow and to become better than they are so the war can be won and their friends will be saved. Jeff Smith managed to portray the growth of each character very well.
I own two physical copies of this series: the first one is all nine volumes in colour in separate books. The second version is one massive collection of 1000+ pages of all the volumes in black and white. I first read the series digitally in black and white and when I got the coloured version I decided I didn’t like it and got the black and white version. Reviewers on Goodreads suggest they coloured in the drawings to appeal to children more. That might be true, but for me, the colours distract from Jeff Smith’s amazing drawing style. It is a whimsical, detailed style that gives each creature he created a life of its own. Also, his style distracts a bit from the scary elements of the story. I prefer the black and white version as well because that fits more with the darkness within the story and it balances the scary and humour parts better. The coloured version looks too silly to me. But I am also predisposed to like black and white children comics because they remind me of time spent at my grandparents’ place. They had a Ducktales comic in black and white which I read at least fifty times. Sometimes I was also allowed to colour in the pictures myself which I always loved. It made me feel like an artist and part of the creation of the stories. Compare for yourself the coloured pages versus black and white:
In conclusion, I want to say that this is a whirlwind fantasy story that benefits of its length because once you pass the first volume you’ll find yourself turning pages like a maniac which won’t run out! This story is often compared to Lord of the Rings, but funnier. Both stories are indeed epic long adventure stories where unwilling heroes fight an ominous threat. However, there are more differences: Bone is aimed at children and consequently has a more an innocent feel to it; there is more humour in Bone; Bone is a Jeff tells his story with images and words in an excellent way. Adults and children alike – those who love to emerge themselves in a big epic adventure story – would all love this story. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life, read this book so I have someone to talk to about it. You won’t regret it.
Goosebumps Award for giving us a story that is scary, and also so much fun
Jeff Smith, Bone: The complete collection (Columbus, 1991)
Bella G. Bear